If you're confused about what diet you should be following, you are not alone. As someone who has struggled with my weight most of my life, I've tried every diet under the sun. Some diets have worked amazing, and others - not so much.
It seems like every month there's a new diet, eating plan or technique that is the latest and greatest that will finally be the magic bullet for you to reach your weight loss goal. It's often sold as the last diet you'll ever need. They all sound magical, but they ignore a profound and simple truth: Every person is unique. What may work for some, could have the opposite effect on others.
Quite simply, there is no one universally effective way of eating for every body type.
Let's look at two of latest diet trends and examine whether or not they may work for you:
Intermittent fasting in one form of the other has probably been around since the beginning of time. People would fast in times of famine, war, for religion and many other reasons. The science around it seems solid. There are many ways of doing it. Some people keep the window of when they eat six to eight hours, so, for example, eating your first meal at 1 pm and not eating after 7 or 8 pm. Others follow the 5:2 method, which is eating 500 calories on two days of the week and not worrying about what they eat the other five. And for some people it really does work and they lose weight and are able to keep it off using intermittent fasting as a lifestyle change.
I have never been a breakfast person, and up until my late 20s, I would skip breakfast and usually have a coffee and eat my first meal around 11 am. I ate most of my calories later in the day, and I was also overweight. I remember going to a nutritionist who questioned me on why I didn't eat breakfast. My answer to her was I wasn't hungry, plus that way I ate fewer calories. She said, “That's fine, keep doing what you're doing if you want the same result. Just remember that's how they fatten up pigs and sumo wrestlers, by giving them most of their calories later in the day.”
It was like a slap in the face, but it worked. I started eating breakfast, and on her recommendation following the blood type diet. And I lost 15 kg in four months and kept it off as long as I followed what she said. Fast-forward to my 40s, and my weight starts creeping up. I heard about intermittent fasting, and it appealed to the part of me that never really like breakfast. I stopped eating breakfast, and started just having one coffee and then my first meal at 12:30. The first month I lost 4 kilos and I thought it was great.
Unfortunately, after that, even though I followed the intermittent fasting religiously, my weight continued to go up, much to my dismay. I thought back to what seemed to work for me in the past, which is eating breakfast, so I started eating breakfast again. As a result, I started losing weight. What I've have found is, if you are the type of person that loses weight when you're stressed, intermittent fasting seems to be very effective. If you are a person that gains weight when you're under stress like me, intermittent fasting may not be the best choice as it’s proven to raise cortisol levels.
The Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet has been around for over 100 years. It was the most effective treatment for epilepsy before they made antiepileptic drugs. It is also considered an effective protocol for diabetes, Parkinson’s, autism, ADHD, migraines, Alzheimer’s, and cancer. In a nutshell, when you take carbs out of the diet, the body will burn fat as a fuel instead.
I believe a ketogenic diet is incredibly effective but very hard to maintain. It absolutely does work if you stick to it. When I follow a ketogenic diet, I have to remind myself to eat. My hunger completely goes away, I can tell my blood sugar is incredibly stable, and the weight drops off rapidly. Unfortunately, it's not the easiest diet stick to, and you need to be very well prepared to avoid carbs in order to stay in ketosis (a fat burning state) for it to work.
I also find it hard to work out and lift weights the first three weeks of following a ketogenic diet, as your energy feels much lower. As your body adapts to burning fat instead of carbs, your energy levels can plummet but they do go back up after three or four weeks. If you don't like to exercise, the ketogenic diet is one of the most effective ones to follow.
So, what should you do?
The perfect diet depends on your activity level, your body type, your genetics, and so many other factors. The best diet for you, the one that works for your body, your lifestyle and your belief system. If you're a vegetarian or vegan, it's very hard to stick to a ketogenic or low-carb diet. Listen to your body and follow what feels right for you. You are the authority on your body, health and life. Just because someone else has amazing results with a certain diet or technique, doesn't mean it'll work perfectly for you too, or that you’re a failure or not doing it right if you're not getting the same results.
Whatever you do, consistency is the key. Eating less, moving more, eating whole, unprocessed foods tends to always work. And if it doesn't, it may not be your diet or your exercise routine that's the problem, but your body believes for whatever reason excess weight is keeping you safe. I see client after client who was following a “perfect diet” and still not losing weight. Once they addressed the underlying reason that their subconscious was hanging onto excess weight, as a protective mechanism, they dropped weight rapidly.
I believe the most important factor is loving and accepting yourself no matter what your weight is. If you are constantly berating yourself and calling yourself fat, horrible and disgusting - your body will feel under attack. At our core, we are animals, and what do animals do when they feel attacked, make themselves appear bigger than they are. Not to mention, whatever you tell yourself, your subconscious mind tries to make true. Start with being kind and gentle with yourself, and focus on your mind just as much as your body.
Caroline Cranshaw is a hypnotherapist, founder and trainer at the New Zealand Integrative Hypnotherapy Training Institute and the author of The Smoking Cure. Find out more about her at nzhypnotherapy.co.nz. Listen to Caroline's new podcast WTF Stories & Advice.